ALTOONA, Iowa -- Joe Hogan doesn't consider himself a hero. He said he feels blessed to be honored by the Red Cross as a “Hero of the Heartland,” but he said he doesn't look at what he does as being heroic.
“I don’t feel like it’s a job. I don’t feel like it’s work. I don’t feel like it’s volunteering,” he said. “I’m just going to hang out with some friends and we accomplish some pretty great things at the same time,” he said.
Hogan founded the nonprofit, Train To Inspire, to improve the quality of life for people with mental and physical disabilities. He encourages people with disabilities to push past their perceived limits and he creates opportunities for them to see what they can do, not what they can’t do.
Chelsea Sloan, of Corydon, is someone who is answering that call.
“I actually met her last year at the Special Olympics airplane pull, so we’re coming up on our one year anniversary,” Hogan said. “Chelsea came out there and she helped us pull a 60-ton airplane.”
Chelsea's mother said a bond was formed. And since then, Hogan has played a huge role in Chelsea’s life.
“We’ve been participating in events ever since, and doing a lot of events that you normally wouldn’t think of Chelsea doing,” Angie Sloan said. “She has just had a blast. She’s met friends. She’s developed a lot of skills that you know we never really thought possible.”
The two have developed such a close relationship, that Hogan brought Chelsea up on stage with him Friday when he received his award at Prairie Meadows.
“She idolizes Joe. She thinks that he’s just wonderful, and the relationship that they have is one-of-a-kind. She struggles with relationships, and he always holds her accountable. It’s just wonderful. It’s been amazing of her,” Angie Sloan said.
But Hogan says, “They’ve changed my life more than I’ll ever change theirs.”
“She’s just an amazing little girl. I mean, it melts your heart when somebody smiles and runs to you every time they see you. It just, it does more for me, than it does for them,” he said. “They’re my heroes. They’ve given me purpose, and life without purpose is kind of, what is it? What’s the point?”
At the “Heroes of the Heartland” event Friday, the Red Cross also celebrated 100 years of a service in Iowa. If you would like to donate, you can do so by visiting redcross.org.